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Kyle, Texas
December 1, 2010     Hays Free Press
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December 1, 2010

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Hays Free Press December 1,2010 OPINION Page 3A BY KAY ~AND BRAD ROIJJNS The Hays County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 to appropriate $1.7 million in voter- approved parks bond money to the Harrison Ranch Park in Dripping Springs as the pool of available funds grows steadily smaller. Supporters of the project, along with those advocating or opposing 11 others under consideration, packed the courtroom beyond" capacity in a reflection of what is the most con- troversial of issues: the distribution of resourc- es. After the Harrison Ranch Park allocation, $1.55 million of the $30 million bond package is unspoken for; pending requests total more than $10.7 million, including two applications from the city of Buda for the Bradfield Park Trail ($334,200) and a skate park ($150,000). The Harrison Ranch project was ranked at the top of 12 projects submitted for consid- eration. The Parks and Open Space Advisory Board was charged by the court to review applications for the funding and rank them according to established criteria. Pct. 2 Com- missioner JeffBarton and Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe voted against im- mediately funding the project, or any other, in favor of allowing the new court, which takes office Jan. 1, to "experience the joys of public service," as Barton wryly put it. Earlier in the meeting, Barton and Ingaisbe were joined by Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley in voting against allocating both the Harrison Park request and $950,000 toward buying a 289-acre tract to expand the 463-acre Purgatory Creek Natural Area in San Marcos, a project sponsored by the Trust for Public Land. Cordey said he wanted to first solicit contribu- tiohs from the city of San Marcos and from Carma Texas, the development company plan- ning a 1,340-acre high-end golf subdivision called Paso Robles. Carma has already agreed to contribute $300,000 to the expansion. Indeed, the court decided to wait on award- ing funds to any other projects until the parks and open space board and the court had more time to gather information and possibly scale down the size and scope of some of the top contenders. The Purgatory Creek expansion, which was ranked number 2 by the commit- tee, followed by the two Buda requests, ranked third and fourth, respectively. The 68-acre Harrison Ranch Park was acquired from the Harrison family by the city of Dripping Springs to serve multiple uses. Among the plans are a wildlife viewing/study area along Little Barton Creek, primitive tent campsites, trails, disk golf, playground, picnic areas and venues that can be rented for wed- dings and group events. Other park projects under consideration, in order of their ranking by the parks board, include Purgatory Creek Tracts (Trust for Pub- lic Land), Bradfield Park Trail (City of Buda), Skate Park (City of Buda), Bear Creek Greenbelt Park (Hays CountyWater Conservation and Improvement District #2), Hays Youth Sports Complex Improvements (Hays County Youth Athletic Association), Craddock Park of San Marcos (Friends of Craddock Park), Whispering Hollow Off-Leash Park (City of Buda), Storm Ranch Conservation Easement (Hill Country Conservancy), Baseball-Softball Field Improve- ments (Dripping Springs Youth Sports Asso- clarion), Wimbefley Aquatics Recreation Park (Swimbedey, Inc.), and Texas Shooting Sports Complex (Hays County Shooting Sports Task Force). Also on Tuesday, the the court finalized the purchase of 50 acres adjacent to the 30-acre Ja- cob's Well Natural Area in the Woodcreek area. For the purchase, the county will spend $850,000 from the 2007 voter-approved Park Bond fund- money that was returned to the fund when, working with the county, the city of Kyle chose to expedite some higher-priority but lower-cost park projects. To meet the $1.7 million asking price for the Jacob's Well land, the county has also arranged to borrow $850,000 from The Nature Conservancy. The county intends to seek partnerships and dona- tions to help retire that loan. As part of the overall project, theWimbefley ValleyWatershed Association (WVWA) will dedicate approximately 31 acres of land that includes Jacob's Well to Hays County and retain approximately 15 acres for the WVWKs current operations. The court also voted to enter into a three- year agreement with the WVWA to manage the property, which will be put into a conservation easement held by the The Nature Conservancy. The county and the watershed association will co-develop the operations and management plan for the entire area to determine how to Improve access for the public and for research while maintaining the pristine natural environ- merit. The watershed association currently man- ages the existing natural area and provides free o~i~ded tours each Saturday at 10 a.m., except holidays. Park PdorlUes The Hays County Parks and Open Space Advi- sow Board completed ranking of the dozen proj- ects seeking the last of the money from a 2007 voter-approved bond package. The panel ranked the projects as follows: 1. Harrison Ranch Park, City of Dripping Springs, $1,700,000, 84.6 2. Purgatory Creek Tracts, Trust for Public Land, $950,000, 80.2 3. Bradfield Park 1Yell, City of Buds, $334,200, 73.7 4. Skate Park, City of Buds, $150,000, 71.7 5. Bear Creek Greenbelt/Park, Hays County WCID #2, $280,000 - 68.9 6. Hays Youth Sports Complex Improve- merits, Hays County Youth Athletic Association, $822,200, 68.3 7. Creddock Park of San Marcos, Friends of Craddock Park, $2,281,900, 67.7 8. Whispering Hollow Off-Leash Park, City of Buds, $25,000, 65.3 9. Storm Ranch (Conservation Easement), Hill Country Conservancy, $300,000, 63.8 10. DSYSA Baseball/Softball Field Improve- ments, Dripping Springs Youth Sports Associa- tion, $129,268, 61.2 11. Wimberley Aquatics Recreation Park, Swimberley Inc., $2,000,000, 61.1 12. Texas Shooting Sports Complex, HC Shooting Sports Task Force, $3,500,000, 50.1 BY ROSS RAMSEY The Texas Tribune Here's how Jim Pitts interprets the Election Day results: "We're making huge cuts," the Waxahachie Republi- can who chairs the House Appropri- ations Committee told a hometown Tea Party group last week. The legislative session starts in January, but Pitts and other finance types have been at work for months. Now they're finding out whether vot- ers really want the cuts they seemed to be demanding when they went to the polls. Pitts told the crowd that the state is studying Medicaid and other forms of government-run health care with today, we wouldn't be throwing him out on the street," Pitts answered. "But if we have any savings on get- ting out of Medicaid, we will have to throw some people out in the street. I'm not telling you that your friend would be, but the eligibility to receive state benofits will go down. "Let me be sure that I said that right," Pitts continued. "Fewer people will be on our Medicaid rolls if we get out and have some savings." The initial budget he and his fel- low budget writers will present a few weeks from now will eliminate some state agencies, make large cuts to others -"75 or 80 percent," he said - and might include furloughs of state employees. Lawmakers, at least in. that first version, will balance the the idea of getting out of it. A man budget without tapping the state's in the audience mentioned a friend Rainy Day Fund. on the program and asked whether A few days after Pitts' remarks, Lt. lawmakers would "throw him out on Gov. David Dewhurst said there s "a the street." silver lining" in the budget prob- "If we did exactly what we're doing lems because they force the state to go through its finances looking for savings "to find out what programs are not really working, that no longer have the priority that they did when the program was passed." The message is clear: There's car- nage ahead. Pitts is getting his local folks ready for the impact, laying out specifc cuts so that people who gen- erally like the idea of smaller govern- ment can get a look at which services they and their families and friends and communities would actually have to give up. The state can't afford to provide the services and programs it cur- rently promises - that's why there's a shortfall - and voters and the people who campaigned for their support for the last year clearly don't like the idea of new taxes. Cuts are a way out. Pitts' comments tee up that solution a couple of months before lawmakers hit Austin to actually write the budget. He makes clear the challenge at the center of the conversation: Less than half of the $182.2 billion biennial state budget is unrestricted, with education and health and human service programs accounting for most of that discre- tionary spending. In fact, if you put education and health and human services offto one side and cut everything else in state government - from thegovemor's office to the Savings andMortgage Lending Department, from Parks & Wildlife to prisons, from the Depart- ment of Transportation to the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, from courts to the Lottery Commis- sion- you would have pared only $7.3 billion from the discretionary part of the budget. Even the rosiest estimates of the state's budget shortfall are big- ger than that, and the professional doomsayers are talking about a num- ber three times that amount. When they toss those figures around, lawmakers aren't includ- ing federal funds and other monies; they're just talking about the part they can control. Of the $80.6 billion in those accounts in the current bud- get, $35.2 billion goes to public edu- cation, $13.7 billion goes to higher education and $24.4 billion goes to health and human services. You simply can't get to the bottom line without cutting inside those programs. State revenue will grow some - the comptroller will estimate how much as the session starts. But cuts are the order of the day. Pitts and Dewhurst and the others have to figure out how to give voters the smaller govemment they want without killing something they want to keep. ROSS RAMSEY is an editor of The Texas Tribune, where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between The Texas Tribune and the Hays Free Press. Jason Isaac: State representative-elect getting accustomed to new Job Continued from pg. 1A fun, but overwhelming." The coming session promises to be challeng- ing. Texas faces a budget shortfall that could exceed $25 billion, representing nearly one-third of the state's $80.6 billion in dis- cretionary funds. While the budget crisis will dominate nearly every discussion in the legislature, lawmakers must also approve a decen- nial redistricting bill, pass 28 agency sunset reviews, and, before the close of the first day, elect a Speaker of the House in an already- contentious race. Isaac said he's currently putting his staff together and undergoing orienta- tions, and recently hired a chief of staff and district director. Several Republican incumbents, including Phil King, Doug Miller and Tim Kleinschmidt have taken the new representative un- der their wing. "I've spoken to several members within the House, and they've just been fan- tastic," Isaac said. "I feel like I'm going to walk into the House and have a ton of mentors." Isaac said he would estab- lish an office in Kyle or San Marcos this summer after the legislature recesses, but .will not maintain a district office during the session, as a way to cut spending. "Right off the bat we took 10 percent off the top of our budget," Isaac said. "If we're going to ask state agencies to do that, we need to set the example." Budget cuts will be a common theme this year, most legislators agree. But simply cutting state agen- cies without raising taxes won't fill the chasm in the two-year budget. About $100 billion of the state's biennial bud- foots 60 percent of the state's $45 billion biennial Medicaid budget. Isaac said he was willing to look at all cuts. "Really, at this point in ~eet comes from restricted time, nothing is off the deral funds. Of the state's table," Isaac said. "We have $80.6 billion in discretion- got to look at everything. I ary funds, $35.2 billion is believe our government can used for public education, trim this shortfall. I know $13.7 billion goes to higher there's going to have to be education and $24.4 billion some tough cuts and unfor- goes to health and human tunately nothing can be left services. The remaining off the table." . $7.3 billion covers all other Isaac said he believed the state services, including the state could fill the shortfall governor's office, prisons, by cutting spending, with- parks and transportation, out raising any fees or taxes, Some conservative law- without approving casino makers, including Governor gambling, and without raid- Rick Perry, have even raised ing the $7 billion Rainy Day the option of dropping out Fund. of the Medicaid Program, "People think that's na'fve, which pays for seven out of but I really believe we can 10 nursing home residents cut the budget shortfall and more than half of the without using the Rainy Day births in Texas. Currently, Fund," Isaac said. "Instead, the federal government we can use the Rainy Day "It's like getting fed by afire (R-McKinney) and Warren rives to D.C., preferably Chisum (R-Pampa), both of people who want to help whom argue that Straus isn't us get a balanced budget l~i~g, conservative enough tolead passed." ho~e. It's been overwbe the near-supermajority of Isaac said he's unsure ~Jt, g'~'~'J~'~ w~e/m2~,,~"fd''~f~" Republicans. if he would support an A lot but o~e~ 7, Isaac said he has not pub- "Arizona-style" immigra- licly pledged his support in tion bill, but said he would the race for Speaker of the be in favor of actions to - Jason Isaac, State Representatlve, Dist. 46 House. overturn the recent federal "I don't have a position health care overhaul re- on that at this time, and quiring most Americans to Fund to provide incentives I'm not leaning one way or carry health insurance. to businesses for providing another," Isaac said. "All my "I certainly believe health insurance to their attention right now is mak- that's an unfunded federal employees and also provide ing sure we've got the best mandate and an intrusion relief to property tax payers, staff put together possible on our tenth amendment I think if you do those cou- and just getting up to speed rights," Isaac said. ple of things you're really on the issues." Though he has no specif- going to spur the economy The GOP majority will ic plans to author legisla- of the state of Texas."also drive a redistrict- tion, Isaac said he would Another issue likely toing bill incorporating the like to find ways to fund prove contentious is the population growth of the water districts without race for Speaker of the2010 census. Unlike therelying on property taxes, House. 2003 redistricting that saw and to explore the option Though the Texas gov- Democrats flee the state to of getting electric providers ernorship and most state break quorum, Republicans to cut a discount on utili- offices have been held by will likely be able to pass ties for school districts. Republicans since 1994, and most redistricting maps"I know Texas State the Texas House has seen that don't violate federal University and other state- a GOP majority since 2002, laws regarding minorityfunded higher education this November's elections voting rights, institutes receive discounts brought a 99-51 Republi- "It sounds like we are on their utilities," Isaac can lead in the House, just going to have three or four said. "I'd like to see if we one vote shy of a powerful new representatives going couldn't get that extended supermajority, to D.C. to represent us, into some or all of the Current Speaker, Joe which is good," Isaac said. school districts. It would Straus, widely considered "We do need to make sure be nice if we could get our to be a moderate, is fac- that they are representa- neighbors together and see ing a heated challenge tire of Texas, and that we if we can't help out some of from Reps. Ken Paxton send some good conserva- the schools." srt ISTIN H |lllll ll,[ Ii||lI/I/IIIIIl|illl[lll/Ii i Ili[ll[llllIIIIii 1 ]l[lllllllil IIIi II[IHIIIIIIIIIIlIIHIIILIII/III]IlalI/IIII/IIIIgIUlIHIIIIIIIIIII1HIIIIII